THE suspension bridge (popularly called the jhoolta pool) over the Machchhu river, which was closed seven months ago for repairs, was reopened on October 26 (Gujarati New Year Day) for tourists and people at large, without a fitness certificate from the Morbi municipality.
In March this year, Morbi-based Oreva Group (Ajanta Manufacturing Pvt Ltd), which also makes e-bikes, was awarded the contract to maintain and manage the bridge by the municipality.
“The bridge is a property of the Morbi municipality, but we had handed it over to Oreva Group a few months ago for maintenance and operations for a duration of 15 years. However, the private firm threw the bridge open to visitors without notifying us and therefore, we couldn’t get a safety audit of the bridge conducted,” Sandeepsinh Zala, Chief Officer, Morbi Municipality, said.
“It was opened to the public after the completion of the renovation work. But the local municipality had not yet issued any fitness certificate (after the renovation work),” he told The Indian Express.
The jhoolta pool, built at the turn of the 19th century over the Machchhu river, collapsed Sunday, unable to bear the weight of about 150 people.
When contacted, a spokesperson for the Oreva Group, said, “While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other.”
Listed as one of the attractions on the Gujarat Tourism website, the bridge, considered an “engineering marvel” was built to give a “unique identity to Morbi using the latest technology available in those days, in Europe”, the district collectorate website says. The bridge was 1.25 metre wide and had a span of 233 metres on the Machchhu River connecting Darbargadh Palace and Lakhdhirji Engineering College.
Sir Waghji Thakor, who ruled Morbi till 1922, was inspired by the colonial influence and decided to construct the bridge, an “artistic and technological marvel” of that period, to connect Darbargadh Palace with Nazarbag Palace (the residences of the then royalty).
“As one enters Morbi swaying pylons of the suspension bridge and the beatific riverfront is a nostalgic reminder of Victorian London,” the Gujarat Tourism site says, describing the jhoolta pool. “The visitor is welcomed into the city through a grand suspension bridge, an artistic and technological marvel of that period,” it says.